Paul Sorvino Was a Softie Who Played Mobsters

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GOODFELLAS Paul Sorvino, 1990
GOODFELLAS Paul Sorvino, 1990

Paul Sorvino in 1990 Credit - Warner Bros./Everett Collection

The two most iconic images of the actor Paul Sorvino could hardly be more different. In the first, he’s slicing garlic with a razor blade as the ruthless Paulie Cicero in Goodfellas. In the second, he’s weeping inconsolably at the 1996 Academy Awards while his daughter Mira dedicates her newly won Oscar to him.

Sorvino, who died on July 25 at 83, excelled at playing both the mobster and the softie, as well as everything in between. The son of an Italian immigrant, he carved out a five-decade acting career, appearing in more than a hundred films, television series, and plays. He received a Tony Award nomination for That Champion Season in 1973, played Henry Kissinger in Oliver Stone’s Nixon and Lord Capulet in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, and starred for a season on Law & Order. Mira Sorvino said at the 1996 Oscars that her father “taught me everything I know about acting.”

While perhaps best known for his hard-bitten roles, Sorvino admitted that he really preferred show off his gentler side. “I’m a poet,” he said in 2015. “I’m an opera singer, I’m an author … none of it is gangster.”